Electrifying long-haul cargo-carrying trucks was deemed financially unviable. However, recent findings from researchers at Chalmers University of Technology demonstrate that operating electric heavy goods vehicles can be more cost-effective than using diesel.
The shift from fossil fuel-powered to electric vehicle fleets has primarily been noticeable in lighter vehicles like private cars and delivery vans. However, the adoption of electric technology in long-distance heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) has been sluggish due to the belief that these vehicles would require bulky batteries, compromising load capacity and rendering electric operation unprofitable. Nevertheless, researchers have now discovered that electricity can serve as a more economical alternative to diesel, even for heavy goods vehicles.
They report 1 on their examination of a specific scenario involving heavy goods vehicles traveling a distance of 553 kilometers between Helsingborg and Stockholm in Sweden. The study compared two distinct battery sizes and considered two potential prices for fast charging. Based on their findings, it appears feasible to electrify this vehicle category in a financially efficient manner.
An actual haulage company
In their study, the researchers developed a model utilizing data obtained from an actual haulage company located in Helsingborg. This choice was made due to the company’s representation of typical tasks and operational circumstances encountered by haulage companies in that particular region of Sweden, particularly when it comes to covering long distances. The larger battery employed in the study did not require roadside recharging; instead, it was replenished at the company’s own depots. However, it did occupy a greater portion of the load capacity. Conversely, the smaller battery necessitated quick charging during the journey but had a lesser impact on the load capacity. The study’s results indicated that the haulage company achieved profitability by utilizing electric power for its operations.
The price of diesel was set at €1.20 per litre and the price of fast charging at €0.17 per kilowatt hour or, alternativley, €0.40 per kilowatt hour. The prices are stated excluding VAT. Otherwise, the researchers assumed that costs such as maintenance were the same for the HGVs regardless of whether they ran on electricity or diesel.
By employing an appropriate battery size, it is feasible to electrify heavy goods vehicles in numerous instances, resulting in comparable or even lower costs than those associated with diesel-powered counterparts. The optimal battery size depends on the nature of the transported goods, whether they are light loads like parcels or vegetables, or heavy loads such as beverages or timber. Factors such as driving patterns and the cost of fast charging also play significant roles in determining the ideal battery size. A plausible future scenario is one where HGVs will be equipped with varying battery sizes to accommodate these diverse considerations.
The model is based on data from a haulage company with realistic conditions and tasks. Although the researchers had assumed a low diesel price, the study concluded that it is profitable for a haulage company to electrify its fleet of HGVs, with the exception of vehicles that mostly load up to their maximum allowed weight.
The investment required for batteries and charging equipment carries its own costs. However, previous research has demonstrated that in order to justify this investment, the battery of an electric heavy goods vehicle should be charged and discharged at least 1,400 times. It is worth noting that most commercial vehicles surpass this threshold over their operational lifespan, thereby validating the economic viability of the investment.
Accelerating the adoption
Traditionally, investigations into the electrification of heavy goods vehicles have primarily focused on scenarios where the vehicles operate and charge within limited areas, such as harbors. The groundbreaking research conducted by the Chalmers University of Technology researchers now has the potential to expedite the shift from diesel-powered to electric heavy goods vehicle transportation. Their findings are anticipated to act as a catalyst for accelerating the adoption of electricity as a viable alternative in this sector.
Anders Grauers, an Associate Professor at the Department of Electrical Engineering at Chalmers, affirms that their research has successfully demonstrated the cost-effective electrification of heavy goods vehicle fleets. As a result, companies should be motivated to invest in this transition. Grauers further emphasizes that financial incentives typically facilitate rapid changes, and their study presents a realistic and applicable solution for numerous transportation operations.